No matter how reliable your car is and how well it sheds rain or manages slick roads, there will come a time when it will be in need of an auto repair. Maybe a lone pothole will do it in, or perhaps it’ll just give in to the wear and tear brought on by thousands of miles of asphalt. In the end, even the best cars have to visit the mechanic.
You might be able to ignore the rattling coming from the glove box, but some problems require immediate attention. If you find yourself in any of these five situations, you need to make getting to a garage a priority.
The check engine light starts flashing
Plenty of people see the check engine light turn on, shrug their shoulders and continue to drive for a few days. While this isn’t exactly advisable, it’s probably not going to be the end of the world. However, when the check engine light starts flashing, you should treat the situation seriously, and get to a trusted mechanic as soon as you can. The flashing can mean many things, from emissions problems to spark plug trouble. It may even mean the engine is misfiring and spilling fuel into the catalytic converter. The longer you let this problem continue, the more costly and difficult your repair may be.
Smoke is pouring out from the hood
If you see smoke coming up from your hood, you have problems. Sometimes you might not see the smoke, instead noticing a sharp acrid smell, like rubber or chemicals burning. Whatever the case, try to get off the road as soon as you can. Something is not right, and your car is probably overheating.
Now, there is a big difference between steam and smoke. Steam, which is clear and transparent, might just mean you’re losing coolant. This needs to be addressed immediately, but it is less concerning than black, burning smoke. Nonetheless, get it checked. You don’t want steam to turn into smoke.
Poor gear shifts
Whether automatic or manual, when a car changes gears, it should produce a slight, satisfying sound. If your vehicle rattles between gears, or if the gears seem to catch and shake, it means your transmission fluids might need to be changed. More severe noises or difficulties may point to larger transmission problems.
If you’re pushing down harder, and it almost seems like you’re standing up to slow down, you probably have a problem with leaking brake fluid. In this case, get your car the shop. You could also have worn pads that need to be replaced. Rather than wait to find yourself in an unsafe situation, keep up with your regularly scheduled maintenance and get your brakes checked out whenever they feel a little spongy.
A rough ride or a tugging wheel
If you can feel every bump in the road, and you step out of your car feeling jolted, or if the nose of your car dips and almost does a nose dive when you brake, you could have a problem with the suspension. This is not just uncomfortable; it’s downright dangerous.
The other sure sign of a problem with your suspension is if your car drifts when you’re driving straight, or if it pulls in one direction or the other when you make a turn.
One last note
It’s not always one big thing that’s going to make you head into that shop. Oftentimes, it’s an accumulation of strange noises, random lights and obnoxious vibrations that should make you want to go in for a tune-up.
Be proactive, keep your car in good condition, stay on top of repairs and you’ll likely avoid many of these potentially catastrophic situations.